Content Savvy Experiences to Engage and Motivate

This is the third commentary on teacher skill in choosing content-savvy concepts to teach the content they are required to teach. (See the last two blog entries). Concepts are the Big Ideas, the core meanings of the knowledge and skills that make up the content that teachers use to connect their students to personal meanings.

There’s a startling idea, content that has personal meaning for students. Sounds strange in light of conventional teaching practice. And yet what leads more directly to positive learning results than personal meaning?

Circle12and6oclockHere are some ideas for concepts that engage students from The 4MAT Software LessonBank.

1. Content: Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day. Concept: Coping
2. Content: The Characteristics of Sound Waves. Concept: Energy in Motion
3. Content: Normal Distribution and Statistics: Concept: Chance (likelihood of college admission based on race and gender)
4. Content: Marketing Segmentation: Concept: Adaptation

So What experiential activities did these teachers choose to begin their instruction?

1. Alexander’s Very Bad Day: Scenario for the children— A backyard picnic with all the neighbors their for your birthday, but it begins pouring rain. What can you do? Children decide Mom can decorate the back porch and have the games played inside and outside on the porch. Children finish this unit by making coping badges to give people when they are having a very bad day.
2. Sound Waves: Favorite musical groups are scaled from 1-10 for energy in motion with reasons given for the ratings.
3. Normal Distribution: Students guess chances for each member to get into college based on their race and gender. They begin with their personal perceptions followed by actually digging into the stats.
4. Marketing Segmentation: Shoes are brought in and tried on. Some fit, some don’t fit. Why weren’t sizes checked beforehand? (This one is simple but leads beautifully to adaptation skill in marketing.)

The discussions that follow these engaging experiences are will exemplify the meaning and purpose of the learning need (to support what Elizabeth Green calls, academic discourse).

Four things to remember:
1. Adults cannot do the talking,
2. Students have to talk about the core idea, the concept itself: coping, adapting, the energy and motion connection, actual chances for being in the necessary distribution group.
3. They must talk to their teacher and receive coaching and assistance. This will engage them in “academic discourse” and finally
4. They must explain what evidence they are using to devise their own conclusions.

Stay tuned. More content-savvy conceptualizing next Friday.

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